Beach Vacation in Udupi

The Beach paradise exists. It isn’t a fable. And you don’t even need a secret map to reach it. Google maps is good enough.
I found my beach paradise in Udupi. Actually I found two and I can tell you that there are many more along the pristine Karavali Coast.
The first one was on the Kota Padukere Beach. The owners of this property have named it ‘Swarga by the Bay’ and I couldn’t agree more.
It’s truly piece of heaven located in the serene Kota village. The locals are kind and friendly and walking around the village and the fields is a charming experience. The house is well furnished and equipped with all the amenities needed to live as if in your own home.
It’s and exclusive property that is not yet on the tourist map. There is nothing between you and the sea except a picket fence.
Next we shifted towards Malpe and stayed at ‘Beach at the White House.’ This place comes with the luxury of a caretaker and a cook. So you can have the comfort of your own house as well as the service of goodnatured staff. Here we also witnessed bioluminescence.
The white washed house adds to the tranquil setting of the Hoode beach. It’s been designed with some interesting features such as this open air washroom.
These beach houses are not too far away from sightseeing hotspots, if that’s something you must do on a vacation. Otherwise these are the places you go to if you are looking for solitude and serenity.

Impressions from a coastal village in Karnataka

“We need eggs.”

“That shouldn’t be too difficult to find.”

The neighbour’s hen visits often, tailed by her chicks. Little A has been trying to make friends with the chicks. But they only want to play catch-me-if-you-can.

“I am not going to look for where they laid their eggs. Though a walk would be nice.”

There’s a shop that sells daily needs.

“Do you’ve peas?” He can’t understand me. I don’t know Kannada. I keep promising myself to start learning when my kid starts it in next grade.

‘Baṭāṇi’ – google translate to the rescue.

“You mean green peas!” The shopkeeper says in Hindi. He shows me a packet of dried peas. “We don’t get fresh peas often. You just need to soak these for three hours before cooking.”

Everything else is there. I would make spinach for lunch and pilaf for dinner.

“Are you staying at beach guest house? I can arrange for anything you need, just tell me a day in advance.” The shopkeeper knows the guest house owner, the caretaker, and everyone else. Everyone in the village knows everyone else – those with the green coloured house, or those in the pink house, the house with big brown gate, and the two houses that are now serving as guest houses.

“Do you need milk? ice creams – are there ? rasam powder?” he asks trying to help me in case I am forgetting any other essentials.

Yesterday I borrowed turmeric from the caretaker lady – ariśina – she was wearing a blue nightie. Today it’s a pink one – so far I haven’t seen her repeat a nightie. It’s the preferred work attire of the local ladies. The older ones manage in sarees – working in the fields or while digging cockles from the beach.

“Jalja Bai makes very good marwai, but you don’t get good fish here anymore.”

Locals take their nets to the sea several times in a day. A group of fishermen scours the shoreline every evening. They catch a handful of catfish and a lot of trash.

We’ll find good fish at our next stay, near Malpe.

Saree: the Sartorial Symbol of India’s Cultural Diversity

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

A saree is an ethnic attire of women in India and also in some of its neighbouring countries. This dress comprises primarily of a seamless piece of cloth, about 8 meters in length, that is worn in over hundred different traditional styles across different regions of the Indian subcontinent.

The saree is an element of the cultural representation of Indian women. It’s considered as a graceful garment that flatters all body types in a sensuous yet elegant manner. A sari can be a two or three piece set worn with a blouse and a petticoat. The main drape is typically 4.5 to 8 meters in length and 2 to 4 feet in breadth. It’s wrapped around the waist, just below or above the navel. In fact there are varying cultural norms about weather or not the navel should be exposed.

Some people consider it immodest to bare the navel. While others may argue that it should be left uncovered, following the belief that all life emerged from the navel of the Supreme being.

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Tea in India is as Varied as the Country’s Culture

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

India is the second largest producer of tea in the world. Teas originating from different regions in the country each possess unique attributes owing to the differences in geographic and climatic conditions. There is an equivalent diversity in the way tea is prepared and relished across the nation.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that India is a nation of tea drinkers, considering that the domestic market consumes about 70 percent of the tea that is produced in the country. And India is the second largest producer of tea in the world, behind China. Furthermore the Indian tea industry is making a push to expand tea export to China from the current figure of nearly 30 percent of tea imported by China.

Meanwhile in India, tea is a part of daily routine. People drink tea at regular intervals for refreshment and it’s often accompanied with a hearty dose of snacks and conversations. Tea is offered to guests as a preferred welcome drink. At homes, kitchens rarely runout of tea leaves. At work, people hang around tea vending machines to take a break. Anywhere you go you can easily find a place that serves tea—from roadside tea stalls to iconic Irani cafes—tea joints serve as rendezvous points. Tea culture in India is so pervasive that the current ruling party had employed a pre-poll campaign titled ‘Chai pe Charcha,’ meaning ‘discussions over tea,’ in order to reach out to the electorate.

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Higher Input Cost, Consumer Ignorance Impede India’s Organic Mission – Analyst

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

India has the highest number of organic producers in the world. The policy makers in the country have repeatedly expressed commitment to sustainable agriculture and the government has established various schemes. Despite all this, organic farming in India is not yet a successful endeavour.

More than 30 percent of the organic producers in the world are from India, according to the latest edition of the World of Organic Agriculture report published by the reputed international organizations FiBL and IFOAM. The country has registered a significant increase in organic agriculture land and has reached among the top 10 countries with the largest areas of organic land.

The Indian government acknowledges that the international demand for Indian organic produce is on the high. The Union Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Minister, Radha Mohan Singh said at a recent organic farming convention that, “During 2016-17, India produced 15 lakh tonne organic produce, where in, the export volume was 3.64 lakh tonne with value of Rs 2478 crore whereas the domestic market size is estimated at Rs 2000 crore which is expected to touch Rs 10000 crore in the next three years.”

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Stereotypes about Indian women overlook their diverse socio-cultural background

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

World over there is a notion that women are oppressed in India. This is a gross generalization as the status and identity of women vary across the diverse socio-cultural strata in the country. We spoke to women from different states of India to find out about their own unique situations.

Any mention of Indian women evokes images of ethnically dressed, dusky and demure beauties. One might also recall a handful of achievers who’ve earned international acclaim in fields as varied as modeling and business. In general it’s perceived that women are marginalized and oppressed in India. This notion is at best incomplete if not altogether incorrect. The reason being that India is a multilingual and multi-ethnic country and the socio-cultural frameworks that define the status and identity of women, vary across different regions in the country.

A Bengali woman has a different upbringing from that of an Odia woman. A Sikh girl has greater access to resources while growing up than another girl from Uttar Pradesh. A Malayali lady has financial aspirations that are in stark contrast to another lady from Bihar. Although most of India follows patrilineal family system but there are living examples of matrilineal societies in Meghalaya and Kerala. The reality is that any Indian woman faces the same issues as any other woman in the world, be it gender equality or crime against women. They navigate through their circumstances within the context of their own unique norms and ideologies.

Sputnik spoke to several women from different regions and states of India to capture the essence of their socio-cultural identity. The questions we posed were about the social norms and cultural ideologies that they grew up with. We asked them whether they thought that  they are empowered or marginalized, dominant and independent or subservient.

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Indian Female Farmers Strive to Overcome Era of Marginalization – Oxfam Manager

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

In India, NGOs have been working to raise awareness about gender disparity in agriculture and to empower women farmers through mass-scale community mobilization drives. As a result, many success stories are emerging that speak volumes about the fortitude of women in asserting their rights against all odds.

In India’s eastern state of Bihar, women farmers have employed an innovative initiative of running and managing paddy sapling banks. They use an accurate scientific technique to cultivate rice saplings, just in time, and ready for transplantation. Village Square, a public-interest communications initiative focusing on rural India, reports that these women are earning a respectable livelihood by selling the saplings to small and marginal farmers.

This story emerged from the Muzaffarpur district, which was earlier in news due to a horrendous case of sexual abuse of women in a shelter for the homeless. Given that the rural landscape of India has earned notoriety for oppression and marginalization of women, such a success story is a source of inspiration for many.

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Indian Techies Riding the Blockchain Wave, With or Without Cryptocurrencies

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

Blockchain developers in India see merit in working along with the government’s policy of encouraging the technology but shunning cryptocurrencies. Startups are deploying blockchain solutions across industries, though they believe that an open approach to virtual currencies will further the benefits.

Blockchain technology has been gaining favor in India. The Indian Government and its regulatory bodies have shown encouraging attitude towards innovations in this field, but have repeatedly warned against cryptocurrencies. There have also been a number of reports about bitcoin related scams. Considering that bitcoin uses blockchain, there is an apparently convoluted scenario of one geeky thing called bitcoin-that has been labelled as ‘ponzi schemes,’ versus another equally geeky phenomena called blockchain-that promises operational transparency, efficiency, and above all – trust.

Experts in the field clarify matters by explaining how blockchain and Bitcoin are two different entities in their own right, even though they have been used in conjunction.

“Blockchain technology is an innovative mix of public key cryptography (invented in the 1970s), cryptographic hash functions (born in the 1970s) and proof-of-work (invented in the 1990s). Bitcoin and other similar cryptocurrencies are one of the use cases of blockchain technology. The Indian Government understands the distinction between cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology,” says Rohas Nagpal, co-founder of Primechain Technologies, a blockchain startup.

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Ice Cycling Feat on Baikal by Two Indians

This article was commissioned by Sputnik International:

Photographs by Nitin Gera

Nitin Gera from New Delhi and Anirban D Choudhury from Kolkata spent a fortnight riding mountain bikes on the frozen Lake Baikal in March this year. This was a unique expedition considering that Indians travelling to Siberia in winter is unheard of, let alone ice cycling.

It was a quest for adventure that urged Nitin Gera and Anirban D Choudhury to take a break from the agreeable subtropical climate of their homes in India and experience the solitude of Siberian winters. In March this year they packed their mountain bikes and supplies for a self-sufficient ice-expedition to a land that feels like a remote destination to an average Indian tourist.

Starting from Listvyanka, at the southern tip of Lake Baikal, they biked parallel to the western coast till Bugul’deyka, where an early onset of springtime thawing made ice cycling any further an extremely risky proposition.

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Meeting P T Usha

The Golden Girl - PC: Usha School of Athletics

The Golden Girl
PC: Usha School of Athletics

P T Usha has inspired several generations of Indian athletes ever since she made her debut at the Olympics in 1980. In an illustrious career she accumulated a wealth of Asian and national medals, and nearly got an Olympic medal in track and field events, something that still eludes the country.

She continues to contribute to the sport through her academy in Kerala. Usha School of Athletics has produced a world class middle distance runner Tintu Luka, and several Asian and national medal winners.

I met P T Usha right after the IAAF World Athletics Championships in 2013. She had just returned from Moscow after accompanying Tintu Luka as her coach. I was working on an assignment for Russia and India Report – a news project by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

In the interview she spoke at length about the state of the sport in the country and what it would take to bring medals home. She said that through her academy she aims to scout and nurture talent, and groom them in all aspects of athletics training.

She said that stronger domestic competitions have to precede international wins –

“Very few Indian athletes qualify for the Olympics. Contrast their numbers to those of Russia or USA. They’ve plenty of runners who clock very close timings. How does Tintu Luka feel pushed if the runner behind her manages to finish in more than two minutes? We need our athletes to compete more at the international level in IAAF approved events, and get the experience of playing at top-class level, so that we may never have a situation when an athlete feels nervous or under pressure.”

P T Usha stressed that there can’t be any achievement without the personal determination of the athlete. She reminisced about her own journey as an athlete when she used to train relentlessly and obsessively–

“I was mentally very strong and I was prepared for the pain. I did everything my coach told me without bothering about my aching body or a lack of decent tracks. In those days we had to go to Patiala or Delhi to practice on synthetic track. Back home, I used to run on footpaths, along train tracks, almost anywhere.”